The Whales of August is a lovely, sentimental, heart-tugging movie, made all the more so by the knowledge that it is, essentially, a goodbye song---and not just for Libby and Sarah. This is the final film of both Miss Gish and Miss Sothern and the next to last of Miss Davis. Vincent Price would make less than a half dozen more films after this one, so he is in the final stages of his career as well, and director Lindsay Anderson made no more feature films after this. In a touching and beautiful way, The Whales of August gives us--and each of them---the chance to say goodbye.
Hard to believe that Miss Gish is 93 years old here---she definitely aged beautifully and looks years younger than her age. Gracious, spry, and lovely, she gives a moving performance, ending her seven-and-a-half decade career on a beautiful, grace-filled note. By taking on this role "at the age of 93, Miss Gish became the oldest actress to have appeared in a starring role."
Bette Davis, two years away from her death here, is very clearly in poor health. Earlier in the decade, she had battled cancer (which would ultimately return and be the cause of her death) and been afflicted with a series of strokes, resulting in partial paralysis of the left side of her face. The effects of the paralysis are obvious. Still, though, she does her usual great job of bringing an unkind, largely unlikable character to life, and she plays blind very believably. Without all the bizarre makeup so prevalent in her late-career films, Bette looks less harsh---younger-looking even---than in some of her 1960's works. Even here at the end of her career, she remains my #1 gal.